Historical Photo: Streetcars on an Inclined Railway, Cincinnati, 1904

Not a map, but included because this is possibly the strangest piece of transit infrastructure I’ve ever seen. Discovered while researching the post about Cincinnati’s abandoned subway, this photo shows what happened when that city’s streetcars met the steep hills surrounding the downtown area.

At this time, the streetcars were used in conjunction with four of Cincinnati’s five inclined railways: the Mount Adams Incline, Mount Auburn Incline, Bellevue Incline, and the Fairview Incline. The cars would be driven onto the platform, which was level and was equipped with rails and (in most cases) overhead trolley wires. The platform, riding on its own rails, would then be pulled up the hill by the cable, carrying the streetcar. Upon reaching the top, the streetcar could simply be driven off the platform onto the standard track along city streets. The 1872-opened Mount Adams Incline began carrying horsecars in 1877, and it was later strengthened for use by electric streetcars, which were much heavier.

More information on the inclines here.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Historical Map: Proposed Cincinnati Rapid Transit System with Subway, c.1912

And here’s where Cincinnati’s long, troubled history with public transit began…

This map shows early route plans for a proposed rapid transit system, roughly corresponding to the modern Alternatives Analysis process. By 1917, a modification of Scheme IV as shown here was chosen and put to a public vote to procure $6 million worth of bonds for construction. The vote passed convincingly, but the United States had entered World War I just eleven days previously — and the federal government had forbidden the issuance of bonds for capital works programs.

The project was put on hold.

When the war ended, estimated construction costs had more than doubled. Work began, but by the time money ran out in 1927, only a short 7-mile section had been dug or graded, and no actual track had been laid. The emergence of the automobile in the intervening years contributed to the project’s final downfall. Despite attempts to restart the project in the 1930s and 1940s, it remains uncompleted.

Four underground stations still remain in the short stretch of completed tunnel, while three at-grade stations were demolished in the 1960s when Interstate 75 was constructed. In the 1950s, a water main was laid through the tunnel, simply because it was already there and obviated the need for expensive tunneling. The original bond was finally paid off in 1966 at a total price of $13,019,982.45 — a lot of money for nothing.

More recently, the tunnels were proposed to be used as an integral part of the MetroMoves transit plan that was convincingly voted down in 2002.

Cincinnati’s transit woes continue to this day with the drawn-out and controversial Cincinnati Streetcar project, which has finally started construction.

Read more about the Cincinnati Subway here.

(Source: allensedge/Flickr)

Official Map: Rapid Transit of Cleveland, Ohio

After posting a photo of a vintage Cleveland RTA rapid transit map, I was curious as to what the current map looked like. Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Sadly, the best thing about this map is the nicely retro-styled RTA agency logo. As for the rest…

What we don’t like: Multiple angles for route lines instead of the standard 45-degrees looks messy and poorly thought out. Strange spacing of stations on the eastern part of the Green Line.

Multicoloured concentric rings for interchange stations gives a strange rainbow vibe to the whole map that becomes quite jarring when four colours -green, red, blue and silver - are used at the Tower City station. Strangely and inconsistently, this concentric ring device is not used on the Waterfront Line, with two half rings being used instead.

The Waterfront Line is also drawn with thinner lines than the rest of the map, which confused me greatly at first: isn’t it just an extension of the Green and Blue Lines? I had to do some research to find out that the Waterfront Line only operates on weekends - an incredibly vital piece of operating information that isn’t indicated on the map at all. A simple addition to the legend would have worked nicely here.

Embarrassingly desultory addition of the HealthLine BRT route.

Our rating: Ugh. An ugly, confusing, inconsistent mess. One star.

1 Star

(Source: Official RTA website)

Old Cleveland RTA Route Map

This looks like it may be affixed to a door or wall of an old train carriage (see the window just above the placard), which means the type on the rail map is incredibly small. The naming of the main railway station as “Public Square” rather than “Tower City” means this map is pre-1991 (when the station changed names), although the general aesthetics and typography would lead me to suspect that this map is from the late 1970s.

(Source: unit2345/Flickr)

Fantasy Map: Columbus, Ohio Light Rail by Michael Tyznik

It’s been a good week for fantasy maps here on Transit Maps. Hot on the heels of the superb Freshwater Rail map comes this beauty from Michael Tyznik of his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. There’s an undoubted Massimo Vignelli 1970s New York Subway map vibe to this - Michael told me that this project actually began as an update of that map, but then morphed into another city altogether - but it still manages to look fresh and new, thanks to some subtle touches like updating the ubiquitous “subway map” geometric sans font with Akzidenz Grotesq and Gotham Black. If you have time, I’d definitely pay a visit to the map’s project page on Michael’s website where you can see the progression of his thoughts on transit in Columbus - from a fairly generic and bland concept that looks like it could be any city in the world, through an elegant-looking light rail system that utilises existing freight-rail right-of-ways, to this (final?) considered and intelligent piece.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Looks great! The concept also looks plausible (to the eyes of someone who has never been to Columbus, at least!), and the amount of thought put into this map really shows.

The blocking out of localities is something that could look heavy-handed and forced, but comes across quite well. It definitely gives context to the routes. The dashed line treatment for the express routes is quite beautifully done: I especially like how there’s a neat little box around stations where the dash doesn’t show. Adding street names along the streetcar routes is a nice usability touch, especially when the routes convert from light rail to streetcar, reinforcing the differences between the services offered by the two modes.

What we don’t like: I’d like to see more differentiation between local and express stations than just whether the name is set in bold or regular text. I don’t think that this is enough of a visual clue for a transit map by itself - maybe a black station dot for express, and a white one for local could work.

While I understand why individual stops on the streetcar lines aren’t shown (stops are closer together and thus “beneath” the scale of this map), I think it would be useful to indicate where transfers between light rail and streetcar can be made. Examples of this include the 2, 3 and 4 where they cross the light rail lines at Union Station, the 2 and 3 at Morse Road on the “A” line, and the 3 at Easton/Stelzer Road on the “E” line. A simple line linking the lines may be enough to indicate that a transfer can be made.

Apart from these thoughts, there’s just a couple of minor quibbles: some of the rounded edges on the localities don’t seem to nest well with the curves of the river (look at the north east corner of Franklinton, for example), the letter designation circles for the “A” line are a different blue to the line itself (C75 M33 Y1 K0 compared to C67 M35 Y2 K0), and the gaps at the directional arrows in the one-way sections of the streetcar routes area a little wide for my liking.

Our rating: Excellent. Well-considered and thought out, stylish and attractive. A couple of usability issues that can be easily corrected. Thanks for sharing your map with us, Michael. 4 stars!

4 Stars!

(Source: Michael’s website)